Daily Reflection
March 13th, 2007

Tom Shanahan, S.J.

University Relations and Theology Department
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Daniel 3:25, 34-43
Psalm 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
Matthew 18:21-35

Here we are in the middle of the season of Lent. As we look back a couple of weeks, we scan the various resolutions that we made. Some of them we have kept and others we haven’t. That may be a source of concern for us, but we can correct ourselves in mid stream (as it were). However, the real truth I believe is not whether we did or did not keep our Lenten do’s and don’ts. The deepest level of the matter is expressed in the first reading in today’s liturgy. According to the Book of Daniel, Azariah “stood up” in midst of the fire and prayed: “with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received.”

I just said above that it doesn’t matter whether or not we have been faithful to what we wanted to sacrifice or what we wanted to do positively for Lent. I fudged somewhat with that assertion because they are relatively important. But, what we really need to look at with a discerning eye is the attitude with which we either do something in imitation of Christ or we abstain from something to link ourselves with Christ.

There it is: it’s our focus on Christ that is the key element in our Lenten journey. It’s not so much what WE do (or don’t do); the important thing is are we humbly and with contrite heart approaching Christ, as Daniel counsels us.

We can get so judgmental and wrongly focused when we set out to do something that is good, or that leads us in the right direction. Have you ever said after a prayer session, “that wasn’t a very good prayer”? Or something like that in respect to my prayer, fasting, or good resolutions. The problem with judgments like this is that they can lead us to cease our attempts to pray, fast, get resolved, etc., and that is certainly not a good thing. I may be distracted, but at least I am trying to pray; and I need to trust that God sees it that way.

Humbly and with contrite heart, then, let us continue to approach Jesus in this Lenten season. This time provides us the opportunity to make such an approach to the Lord. It gives us the chance to be invited and coaxed once again into solidarity with Christ. That is so much more important than checking on ourselves to see if we’ve been good persons because of our Lenten sacrifices or our acts of kindness that we proposed on or before Ash Wednesday.

Lord, help us to keep our focus on you. Be with us as we grow in faith, hope and love. May our Lenten observance lead us to You and to gratitude for your grace in our lives.

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